If you don't know already Oktoberfest is the world's largest beer and fun fair festival that lasts 16-18 days and takes place in Munich, Germany the capital of Bavaria. It begins in mid to late September and lasts until the first week of October. It’s definitely something everyone should experience at least once in their life. For me I’ve had the opportunity to experience it three times, each with a different perspective.
My first time at Oktoberfest was with my parents in 2012. I heard about it from my dad and seen pictures but it was something else to see it in full swing. It's basically one big carnival with lots of attractions and rids, endless variety of food stands and of course lots of beer tents and beer gardens. The beer tents are huge buildings packed with people dressed in transitional German "drindl" standing on benches and tables singing, dancing and spilling beer all over each other, this takes place from the time they open in the morning until about mid-night when the tents close. Each tent has its own type of beer and own decoration theme. One better than the next, that’s over 30 different beer to try. Mind you they are much stronger than one thinks. Being able to drink a six pack of bud-light at home in the states I had one in a half steins and it was enough.
The second time I went to Munich for Oktoberfest was with a friend of mine from Prague. This was my first year I moved to Prague and I wanted to experience it with a younger crowd, sorry mom and dad. My friend and I decided to make a weekend trip out of it. In about 4 hours by bus from Prague we made it to Munich. We stayed at a family friends so it was great to have a local tell us how to get around the city. Since we arrived late in the evening on Friday we decided to devote the whole Saturday to the Oktoberfest shenanigans. We woke up early and headed to the city center first for some touristy site seeing and then by noon we were ready to get our drink on. We got to where the festival was and it was already filling up quick. Our first mission was to get to a beer tent. We tried to get into a few different beer gardens but the lines were just too long or required prior reservation. We tried our luck with the tent I knew all too well and that was Augustiner. (Munich’s oldest brewery founded by Augustinian monks in 1328). When we arrived to the beer garden it was completely packed as well. All seats were taken, there were people crowded in the walkways keeping an eye out on who's getting up so they could snatch their seats. It seemed hopeless. But being the type of girls that we are we didn’t give up and made it our mission to find a place to sit. I spotted some guys wearing “Prague drinking team”, hoodies, bingo those were our guys. I went up to them telling them we are Czech that we love their sweaters and asked if we could sit with them, though seating was very tight. Success, they agreed! Not only did we finally get a place to sit and drink beer but we also found ourselves with the funniest guys. We spent the day drinking and trying to understand each other as they were Italian and didn’t speak English all too well. But after drinking 10 big steins of beers everyone speaks the same language. Yes, you heard me right we each drank 10 of the big 1.5 liters of beers. In the evening we found ourselves wondering the grounds of Oktoberfest hopping from tent to tent. By this point it was late and almost everyone was more than half way in the bag so getting into the beer tents was a breeze.
If you want to have a crazy, fun experience I highly recommend going with a friend. In pairs you’ll find it easier to find a place to sit rather than with a large group. It’s all about exploring the grounds of the festival, meeting people and seeing where the day/night takes you.
My third and probably last Oktoberfest as I think I've seen enough was when my boyfriend and I went last year. We spent the weekend at the Sheraton Munich Arabellapark Hotel. This hotel is located a bit outside the city center but it’s a short walk to the English Garden, about half an hour by public transport to Theresienwiese the fairgrounds of Oktoberfest and for those of you that are the walking type like us, you can take the scenic and site-seeing route and walk there in about an hour and half.
After indulging ourselves in a delicious continental breakfast. We headed out to explore Munich. We made our way through the English Garden, watched surfers surf Eisbach (German for "ice brook") a small man-made river in the ridded cold temperatures and headed to the main downtown area called Marianplatz.By the afternoon we made it to Oktoberfest. This time we arrived to the festival after lunch and it was already so ridiculously crowded it was unbelievable. The following years I didn’t remember it being packed the years prior. I don’t know if this is due to its popularity increasing or just that by that time I was already sitting in a beer garden on my 5th beer so I wasn’t dodging the crowds of drunk people. Getting into a beer garden seemed impossible never mind a tent. It didn't look promising at all. We took the risk and along with the other 100 people stood in from of the beer garden gate waiting to get in. My thoughts coming to Oktoberfest with a guy was that there would be no chance anyone would let us in. Little did I know that my boyfriend had the magic touch. Don't know how he did it, but before I knew it he was grabbing my hand dragging me through the crowd and thing I knew we were sitting drinking a cold beer watching the other people trying so hard to get in. It pays off to have a 6 foot 7 boyfriend who gets spotted out of the crowd.
Then we decided to head to Paulaner beer tent as we heard by many it was the most popular and almost elite to get in probably because their style of beer is specially produced for Oktoberfest. We walked around the building multiple times, trying different ways of entry with no success. Until we found a back door with probably about 20 people waiting in a group to get in. By this point I didn’t see it happening so I stood back eating my roasted almonds while my boyfriend worked him magic. The bouncer looked at me told me to take off my Oktoberfest hat and we made our way in. I wondered why he had me do that and once we were inside I quickly realized why. Everyone was dressed in the traditional German “dirndl” besides us and maybe he taught the hat made me look like a boy, who knows but we got in anyway. We made our way to the top of the balcony and spent the night listening to the live band, which was awesome!
Lesson learned, don’t give up hope. If there’s a will there’s a way. If one beer garden or tent won’t let you in keep trying until someone does, and once you’re in that beer will taste that much better.
On Sunday we spent the morning relaxing at Sheraton's Munich Arabellapark Hotel pool located on the top floor with a view overlooking Munich’s English Garden before heading back to Prague in the late afternoon. Nice way to end a weekend of walking, site-seeing and beer drinking.
Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind before going to Oktoberfest
- Get there early
Although for some starting to drink beer at 10:00am seems a little crazy, if you want to guarantee yourself a seat you should be there at this time. Remember the early bird catches the worm.
On opening day, beer is served from 12 am until 10:30 pm. From Monday to Friday, beer is sold from 10 am to 10:30 pm, on weekends and holidays, the tents serve beer from 9 am to 10:30 pm.
- Make friends
Once you get a spot in the beer garden/tent make friends with your neighbors the people sitting next to you, beside you, behind you, well basically everywhere. The space is so tight and chances are you will be sitting there for hours so you might as well get to know each other.
- Bring cash
I’m pretty sure most if not all tents are cash only. Last thing you want to do is give up the seat you worked so hard to get to get more money from the atm. Unless of course you’ve been there all day and you spent it all then maybe it’s time for you to head to the next spot.
One big stein of beer costs 10 €
- Have a bathroom plan
Probably the most important tip is go to the bathroom way before you really have to go. The lines are just as long to get into the beer garden/tent. Last thing you want is to pee your pants or be that person peeing on the side of the beer tent and getting kicked out of the fair grounds.
5. Remember to eat
Drinking all day will have you feeling full, but you still have to try some tradional Oktoberfest foods; fresh pretzels, half a leg of roasted chicken, roasted almonds, fish sandwiches, weiners (hot dogs) and much more.
6. Have fun & be safe
Enjoy yourself, let loose, sing and dance on the tables like everyone else. But know your limits, you don’t want to be that person passed out on the table or falling off the table, because you will get kicked out faster than you can blink an eye.